The story of a lapsed activist’s reinvolvement with his political past, “Time of the Return” breaks with the seemingly endless number of Italo pix dealing with the disenchantment of the former protest generation in purely abstract, introspective terms. Lucio Lunerti’s debut feature should land further fest exposure before turning up in quality TV slots.
Film’s pivotal figure is Luca (Stefano Abbati), who works as a radio deejay and is involved in a noncommittal relationship. He gets hauled out of his self-imposed insularity when TV documaker friend Giovanni (Alberto Di Stasio) enlists his help on a film inquiry into the “leaden years” of terrorism in 1970s Italy.
Pic takes an existential road-movie turn with Luca first visiting his hometown, for some emotionally unrewarding sessions with his estranged parents and former fellow activists, and later meeting old friend Matteo (Giovanni Visentin), who’s in hiding after informing on terrorists. A thriller element creeps in as it becomes apparent that Giovanni’s own past brush with terrorists has left scars.
Writer/director Lunerti’s approach remains low-key and solemnly intelligent where a more suspenseful tack wouldn’t have been amiss. Also, some late plot developments lack clarity. Still, the pic’s assessment of the price paid for coming to terms with one’s choices gets through undimmed.
Perfs are quietly focused and understated. Raffaele Mertes’ camera work and Roberto Ciotti’s only occasionally intrusive music are both significant contributions. Other tech credits are sound.